Social media is an amazing way to promote your business. You can communicate with thousands of targeted people easily and effectively. Dedicating an hour a day to send appropriate messages, ideas, and comments of interest to your audience is a great investment. They will get hooked to your message, solidifying your brand. It is a communication channel that allows you to develop branding and promotions. Social media applications give merchants opportunities not only to learn about all their customers, but to connect with them in real time.
Start with the social media channels that your audience is likely to use. If your customers are composed of direct consumers, there is a good chance that they’re Facebook users. Creating a business page on Facebook is a great channel to announce your promotions, product launches and general information about your services. Research shows that promotions are one of the top reasons why people become fans (a.k.a. Like) of business pages. It is also a valuable tool to receive feedback. Readers tend to react to postings on Facebook, and their comments are a very important feedback for your company. You can manipulate your postings to receive specific feedback. It is a perfect tool to develop relationships with potential customers and business partners.
Twitter is another excellent tool to communicate with customers and followers, providing quick messages (140 characters) on product announcements and promotions. It is also ideal to develop business relationships with your followers and the people you follow. What’s more, Twitter allows you to track industry leaders and stay current with the latest trends.
Many businesses benefit from blogging. There are excellent free platforms such as Blogger and WordPress. You can write about your industry, your products and services. It is a unique channel for branding, and to personally position yourself as an industry expert. Blogs can also be part of your website, giving it a dynamic and fresh flare. It is a good opportunity to bring customers to your website more often, resulting in more exposure to your brand.
Your Own Website
Speaking of websites, what a great location to promote your products; it is your business’ virtual face! Browsers often react extremely negatively when they see poor quality content and clutter. A well designed website provides content with the least amount of clicks and unnecessary pages; customers should be able to get their answers effortlessly. A well designed website also motivates visitors to learn more about your products and services, as they click through the site. Make sure it is clear, simple and pretty.
Online Forums and Industry News Portals
Here it is an efficient way to involve your brand in relevant discussions. Also, by placing your message and links to your website in comment strings you will get additional significance in keyword searches. Follow at least the top two news websites of your industry on a daily basis.
Another direct way to connect with customers and solidify your brand is through your own e-newsletter. It is inexpensive (or even free depending on the size of your database), and you will be able to present first hand your new products, service announcements, and a handful of useful information to your customers. E-mail platforms such as MailChimp.com are very user-friendly, you won’t need to hire a designer, and it easily allows you to track your database activity.
Issuing press releases is an important component of any effective communications plan. There are multiple options of PR services available for small businesses. You can hire a service to write and/or distribute it online, or you can write it yourself and distribute to your local media. Your media distribution choices should reflect the geography of your audience. If it is a local business, distributing to your local media is as simple as sending your press releases to the contact addresses, or industry reporters listed in the publications’ websites. If your audience is spread nationwide or internationally, it may make sense to hire a distribution agency. Rates are usually very reasonable!
Are you maximizing your LinkedIn profile? As a business owner you can take advantage of LinkedIn for your personal connections as well as your business. Ask customers and professional colleagues to post testimonials, then network as if LinkedIn were an online trade show. Search for people you know and invite them to be part of your network. Status updates work much like those on Facebook or Twitter. You may benefit from keeping your network up-to-date on your business progress, your new services and products. It may be a solution for some of their personal and/or business needs. There are several forums and groups posting questions that your business may help answer. Post your comments and answers to business needs. Become member in multiple industry related groups and keep an eye on trends and questions from your business audience. It is your chance to post answers and promote your business.
You Tube is an excellent channel to visually promote your business, and you don’t need expensive equipment. A simple camera will do it, along with a well planned content. You can create several mini-videos teaching how to fix, or how to make things, or simply showing your products. Make sure it makes sense to your audience. It is a great way to position your brand, and if it is good enough, visitors can send it virally, multiplying your exposure without any extra cost.
Geolocation services are becoming a powerful marketing tool. It encourages people to explore their neighborhoods by offering perks and rewards, combining friends and city guide elements with game mechanics. As a business owner, you can use applications like Foursquare to engage your increasingly mobile customers with specials. When people use the application within a few blocks from your business, a special offer can pop up on their mobile phones. Location-based services offer customer-relationship tools, rewards programs, social networks, games, business directories, city guides and review sites. Other geolocation services include Gowalla, Loopt, Where and Scvngr. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Google are adding location-based functions.
Lastly, as an industry expert, you can publish articles online. There are several content portals such as Yahoo Associate Content that are free to publish, and the content is syndicated to other portals. It is an efficient way to spread your word, and promote your brand.
Now that you are aware of the value of many inexpensive opportunities to maximize your business exposure, it is important to think about the core message you want to communicate. Think about the concept and sentiment you want associated with your brand. All communications through all media channels should reflect that. You have to take the lead on how your brand is perceived. Once you have established your objectives, you can decide which channels are best suited to your business. Make the most of it!
Revisions are always necessary at least on a monthly basis. Your competitors change directions periodically and you should be alert to any movement. Realigning your strategies will allow you to maximize your marketing efforts.
Renata B.L.Lerch, founder and managing director of Lima Lerch Consulting, has worked with strategic marketing for over 18 years. Before starting Lima Lerch Consulting, she managed marketing and business development in large multinationals, covering the US, European and Latin American markets.